Aravindan Neelakandan's series on the Sri Lalitha Sahasranama has a new title, 'Sahasra'. This Navratri, we bring to you one article each from this series, each day.
Knowing the backdrop of Bhandasura's rise is integral to a deeper understanding of the Sri Lalitha Sahasranama.
The burning of Manmatha (Kama) to ashes by Shiva is called Kama-dahana. It is from the ashes of Kama that Bhandasura arises.
In the given context, kama should be understood at two levels.
One. In the individual organism, kama is the vital, pleasure-seeking drive of the psyche. Freudian psychology calls it 'libido'.
Two. Kama also has a cosmological role as a primal stir in the Universal Mind.
Back to the Puranic story. From the ashes of Kama, an Asura arose. This Asura was vanquished by the Goddess.
However, the Brahmanda Purana does not leave it here. There is a complementary development which is given in the 84th Name:
Hara-netragni-sandagdha-kama-sanjivan-aushadhi - Agni from the eye of Hara (Shiva) has burnt Kama and the Goddess is the medicine that brings Kama back to life.
Bhaskara Raya, the celebrated commentator on Sri Lalitha Sahasranama, points out the conventional Hindu wisdom that even those who transgressed God could attain forgiveness but those who transgress Guru cannot. Though Kama transgressed against Shiva, the Goddess could revive him because the Goddess is also Guru.
The episode also shows the parental dynamics of the mother becoming the protector of the child when the father gets angry.
At the deeper level, this episode needs to be understood as Hara, the Self, burning down the pleasure-seeking vital force. When it is completely burnt, it can give rise only to an Asuric form. But if the Goddess intervenes, She heals and brings back Kama. This vital force, now revived, does not seek pleasure anymore. It now seeks the Divine.
When tapas only burns but does not integrate kama with it, it creates as an unintentional, but unavoidable consequence, an Asuric form. The Goddess has to arise from Chit-Agni to battle with this Asura.
If tapas is to become whole, then it has to be complemented and harmonised with kama.
At the intervention of the Goddess, Kama, charred to ashes by Shiva, obtains a new life of entirety (sam-jivana) with Goddess being the healing medicine (aushadhi). When this kama complements tapas, Self-realisation happens at the individual level.
The second explanation
All creativity arises from the complementarity of tapas and kama, which at the surface, seem opposed to each other. This harmonious complementarity is a consistent Vedic vision.
In the celebrated Nasadiya Sukta of Rig Veda (10.129) the verses 2 and 3 bring out this complementarity as the basis of the very emergence of all existence:
In that night before creation, in intense singularity where space and time, matter and energy were all unmanifest and intense, that One manifests Itself through the magnificence of tapas (tapasastanmahinājāyataikaṃ).
In that nascent manifested One who manifested through intense tapas arose the primal seed of desire (kamam).
The sukta which so far has been giving a very poetic description of the moment before physical creation, suddenly gets into the inner realm in the second line of the third verse.
It says that the seers discovered thus through intuition the bond between the existence and non-existence.
One can see that all the key elements of the Vedic Sukta namely tapas, heat and kama have been incorporated in the Puranic Kama-dahana. The later Puranic Kama-dahana thus has both inner and cosmological connotations.
Vedic literature also brings kama and tapas together with respect to cosmic manifestation and evolution.
The Taittiriya Upanishad (2.6.1) in a way takes from the Nasadiya Sukta and states:
The One desired to become many entities. He did tapas and by the intensity of tapas He brought forth all that is here.
(Sa kāmayata bahusyāṃ prajāyeyeti .
sa tapotapyata; sa tapastaptvā idaṃ sarvamasṛjata yadidaṃ kiṃ ca).
In Nasadiya Sukta, from tapas the One emerges and then kama stirs the Universal Mind. In the Upanishad, as kama stirs the One to become Many, the One enters into tapas to achieve this.
Every act of creation in India is considered as the coming together of kama and tapas. It is a very common saying in every Hindu family that when a child is born, it born out of tapas though everyone knows that kama is the passion that drives the process of procreation.
In other words the high Vedic vision of tapas and kama as complements has permeated Hindu Hindu life, as a vision and value. What is true of new life is also true of art form and literature. It is also true for the origin and evolution of universe as well.
When seen in this context the Puranic burning of Kama by agni arising from the tapas of Shiva and the rejuvenation of Kama through the healing of the Goddess points to only one conclusion – it is the Goddess who is the deeper complementarity that unites tapas and kama and transforms it into a creativity of Divine Consciousness.
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